Samsung Galaxy TabPro S review (hands-on): A Surface Pro rival that Microsoft might actually be concerned about

Tablets that are just tablets? How very 2015. Following in the well-trodden footsteps of Microsoft’s Surface range, Samsung unleashed its own spin on the 2-in-1 Windows 10 detachable at CES 2016 – and the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S looks to be a serious contender.

Samsung Galaxy TabPro S review (hands-on): A Surface Pro rival that Microsoft might actually be concerned about

If you’re used to a Surface Pro, the first thing you’ll notice is just how light the Samsung is. Without the keyboard, this 12in tablet weighs 693g. With the keyboard – well, no-one seems to know for sure, but I’d be very surprised if it’s more than 1kg.

Samsung Galaxy TabPro S review: Keyboard and touchpad

That’s partially because there isn’t much to the keyboard other than plastic, with no hidden battery to add to Samsung’s claimed 10.5 hours. This has the benefit of thinness, adding just 4.9mm to the 6.3mm of the device itself, but such slenderness has a knock-on effect when it comes to key travel.

I’m not a fan of this shortened action, but one of my fellow CES-ers was full of praise for it, claiming he bashed out hundreds of words in quick succession. It’s certainly a billion times more pleasant to type on than an on-screen display.

I found myself a bit wary of the touchpad as well. It’s short, even for a compact laptop, which meant I had to concentrate to avoid pressing the built-in left- and right-click buttons. Perhaps this is something you’d get used to, perhaps it will be a constant irritation. Without using the TabPro over a decent period, it’s tough to know.

Another drawback of Samsung’s design, compared to the adaptable hinge of the Surface and many of its rivals, is that there are only two positions for the screen, although the plus point of having no kickstand is that it sits more easily on your lap.

This is all due to Samsung’s choice of case/keyboard, which attaches in a very odd way: the “top” hooks over the rear camera, you snap the tablet into position using the magnetised connector, and then lean it back – either into an upright, let’s-do-some-work angle, or a hey-let’s-chill-and-watch-a-movie angle.

Samsung Galaxy TabPro S review: Display and performance

Whatever you choose to do, the screen won’t disappoint. Using Super AMOLED technology, its 2,160 x 1,440 resolution means there’s plenty of vibrant colour and crisp detail when you need it. Video output is via a single USB Type-C port, with Samsung offering a cute mini adapter that will add two USB ports and one HDMI output (it also promises a companion, optional, Bluetooth pen).

You probably don’t want to use this as your main laptop, though, with a dual-core Core M processor in charge. That should be plenty for everyday duties, but we know from previous experience with Core M laptops that they don’t perform well in CPU-intensive tasks.

You’ll also quickly hit the limits of the 128GB SSD (a 256GB version might become available in the UK), but I don’t mean to be too harsh: the Galaxy TabPro S would be absolutely fine as a second PC and, as it uses Windows 10, it will be a flexible little machine.

It should also be a fine travel companion, kitted out with 802.11ac wireless and Bluetooth 4.1, plus an NFC chip in the keyboard. There’s also GPS chip in the tablet itself, along with heat and light sensors. Americans will benefit from an LTE-equipped option too, but it’s unclear whether this will reach us in the UK. Indeed, it’s not certain if it will release the TabPro in Europe at all, as a year ago it formally pulled out of the European market for laptops.

Oh, and there’s one more key piece of information that remains elusive: Samsung is being annoyingly coy on the price, despite the fact that the TabPro S is due to launch in February. If it gets that final piece of the puzzle right – and we know the keyboard will be included – then this could pose a serious threat to the Surface.

See also: Your guide to the very best laptops of 2016

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